Sue Campbell (right) pictured with Michel Roux Jr. at Taste of Dublin 2014
Sue, who hails from Dublin completed the Professional Three Month Certificate course in 2007.
I started off working in marketing and finance but I soon tired of the career and set up my own business – a massage and holistic therapy business.
As part of the therapy sessions I ran, I used to make food and serve it to my clients at the end of the classes. The food went down really well and my clients soon started to ask me to run food workshops for them as well. It was something I loved the thought of but wasn’t comfortable doing so I started doing some research to try and find a cookery course that would give me the confidence, skills and knowledge I was looking for. Around the same time I was involved in a bad car accident and I decided to use my settlement money to pursue the food side of things properly and sign up to a full-time cookery course.
I remember when I came to visit the school. I walked through the door and the first person I bumped into was Ross Lewis (head chef of Michelin star restaurant Chapter One)! I couldn’t believe it – I was so star struck. Anyway, I got chatting to him and he highly recommended the course to me – my mind was made up!
The course was quite intensive – we covered a lot of material! I remember being surrounded by amazing chefs throughout the course – Derry Clarke (of Michelin star L’Ecrivain), Atul Kocchar (the first ever Indian chef to receive a Michelin star), Sunil Ghai (Ananda), Mathew Albert (Nahm, London) and Rossa Crowe (Le Levain Bakery).
One of my personal highlights was Derry Clarke teaching me how to butcher a rabbit and a haunch of lamb. I also competed against him in a blind cook off…and won! One of the dishes we learnt on the course still sticks in my head to this day – it was a Smoked Haddock & Spinach Risotto with an Asian Foam. It was the kind of dish which on paper shouldn’t have worked but it was actually awesome!
Where do I start?! I’ve worked in quite a few different roles since I finished the course. I went into film location catering as a Catering Manager, working on the sets of productions like Camelot, The Tudors and Vikings. I was in charge of running the entire catering operation, managing all of the menus, staff and logistics.
From there I teamed up with the people who started the Insomnia coffee business as a General Manager to open up a new chain of Cafe Libro coffee shops inside Hughes & Hughes book stores. The business model was based on a bookshop-cafe concept where we’d serve great coffee and gourmet sandwiches. The concept proved to be a great success and we opened a total of six cafés in nine months.
I also worked for American food services company Aramark looking after their catering functions at around 50 sites in Ireland covering menus, new concepts, P&L, staffing and HR etc. I also worked on Retail Product Development for Cavistons.
My current role is Head of Food Services for Frangos World Cuisine in Dundrum Town Centre. The Frangos food offering consists of a deli, bakery, pizzeria, grill and gourmet sandwich bar. It’s a role I really enjoy with lots of room for growth and exciting projects lined up for the rest of this year.
I would go as far as to say every management job I have secured since finishing the course is because I have a strong food background from doing the Three Month course. In my professional capacity now , I meet chefs on a daily basis who have trained elsewhere and none of them come with the same skill set as the Certificate students coming out of the cookery school.
Doing the course has worked really well for me. My career lifted off on leaving the school – the course has given me the foundation to take on all sorts of jobs. Our group all went on to do entirely different things. I think there may have been a sense that we might head towards fine dining but only a few decided to go down that route. The rest of us found really interesting niches doing very varied jobs. Not everyone wanted to go into the food industry (some just wanted to become better cooks), but for those of us who did it was a great course that opened significant doors. I have really happy memories of those three months.
The cookery school has opened up the food industry to me and put me in contact with some amazing chefs. All of the cookery school tutors and guest chefs are very generous with their time and since leaving I have often been in touch to pick their brains and bounce ideas off them.